— Mumbai cyber police are determined to scrub the Internet of homoerotic photos of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi
Last year, I blogged about bullying attempts by Mumbai’s cyber police squad to censor BuzzFeed re: this clearly doctored image of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi embracing his right-hand man Rajnath Singh on an idyllic beach.
Since then, I’ve noticed an almost daily volley of oddly specific incoming search terms on my blog, including: “modi fuck pics,” “modi sex,” and “india fuck modi.” Either someone really likes Narendra Modi, or Mumbai’s cyber police are spending all of their time scouring the Internet for reasons to be offended.
Today, it appears that debate has been settled. Automattic, the company behind blogging platform WordPress, has rejected a frivolous legal request by the apparently easily offended cyber division to censor my earlier blog post. Written in a Trumpian ALL CAPS style, the three-page document states that the department was acting on a complaint it received from an unknown person, who objected to the allegedly “perverse” rendering of Modi and Singh.
“It is found that the suspects are posting such exclamatory and defamatory morphed/vulgar photos with the purpose to create UNREST, BREACHofPEACE which might result in LAW&ORDER problems in Maharashtra, India,” reads the nonsensical request, which was personally signed by Senior Inspector of Police, S.S.Sahasrabudhe.
From there, somehow it gets worse, with the department demanding that Automattic immediately furnish the mobile phone numbers, e-mail and IP addresses of publishers of the offending content. The demand is listed as a “TOP PRIORITY BASIS so as to avoid Law and Order problems in Maharashtra and INDIA.”
An addendum to the document cites Section 91 of India’s Code of Criminal Procedure, which broadly permits “any officer in charge of a police station” to request “any document or other thing” from “the person in whose possession…such document or thing is believed to be.”
In an e-mail, a representative for Automattic dismissed the request.
“As the request does not comply with our requirements, we will not be taking any action against your site at this time,” the spokesperson said. “While we may preserve information about your account, we have not turned over any information. We will not turn over any information unless we receive a valid request for the information, or a court order. If we do receive such a request, unless we are legally prohibited from doing so, we will inform you and provide you time when you may attempt to quash or legally challenge the request.”
In addition to my blog, the cyber squad’s demand also targeted at least one other blog allegedly responsible for hosting objectionable content, which I will now share in the interests of full disclosure.